Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Dr. Shimon Samuels
Director - Simon Weisenthal Center - Paris

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 1997, I had the honour to address this Commission on the state of antisemitism in the OSCE member-states at that time. Prominent among the potential dangers to the Jewish condition that I then highlighted were:
-Holocaust denial and its relativization
-Technology in the service of hate, especially via the Internet
-The spread of fundamentalist Islamic influence

Yet, by the Millennium, only two years ago, peace processes and the bubble of global economic boom implied a new stage in the 2000-year precariousness of Jewish history. There were no more “Jews of oppression” and our destiny and destination had become a matter of choice.

The OSCE was vindicated, as the Jewish condition seemed to be normalized both within its member states as also, apparently, the Jewish state was becoming accepted into the family of nations.

Then came the Intifada, Durban and 9/11, each releasing the old demons awaiting beneath the surface.

The World Conference Against Racism held in Durban last fall hijacked United Nations agencies (especially the Human Rights Commission and UNESCO) into a campaign for the demonization of the Jewish state and, through it, of the Jewish people.

The Friday evening march against racism did not end at the Durban City Hall, but at the Jewish Club and synagogue whereHitler flyers (asking “what if I would have won”) and the Protocols of Zion were distributed. That night, I, as Chair of the Jewish Caucus in Durban, together with our Centre’s Associate Dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, saw anti-Israel and anti-Zionist pretexts die at the gates of a synagogue, endorsing a new antisemitism under the guise of a human rights solidarity campaign.

Last 11 November, at the UN High Commission for Human Rights Madrid Conference on Religious Intolerance, I heard no protest at the Syrian Ambassador’s call for the exclusion of “a certain arrogant religion that claims itself as chosen.”

Similarly, UNESCO, a propaganda mouthpiece for tyrannies and collaborator in covering up the worst human rights offences, systematically singled out Israel for abuse. I enter into the record an outrageous report to be delivered by Director-General Koichiro Matsuura to the UNESCO Executive Board on 28 May. It condemns Israel for crimes against the Palestinian cultural heritage and deliberate destruction of its educational structure. There is no mention of the devastation of Jewish holy sites or incitement to Jew-hatred in school-texts, media and mosques.

There is neither sensitivity to Jewish victims of terror in Israel, nor of violence against synagogues, not twenty minutes away from UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. Indeed, this Organization, responsible for the culture of peace and dialogue between civilizations, has remained constantly silent on contemporary antisemitism.

The critical mass of UN and media pillorying of Israel is validating a slippage to anti-Jewish assaults.

The outbreak of the “Intifada” on 28 September 2000 unleashed a wave of Middle East-related antisemitic incidents worldwide.

Among OSCE countries, in the single month of October 2000, the highest numbers of such attacks were perpetrated in France (70), followed by Canada (29), the United States (22), Great Britain (20) and others…

The trend continued throughout 2001 with some 320 reported incidents in France i.e. targeting Jewish institutions (synagogues, schools, cemeteries) and individuals almost daily.

To make matters worse, official French Police statistics have reported over 400 such incidents in the first three months of 2002, rising to a dozen incidents per day in April (i.e. 380 in France topping 127 in Germany and 57 in the United Kingdom). The Wiesenthal Centre therefore decided, for the first time ever, to place a Travel Advisory on its website (www.wiesenthal.com) suggesting that Jewish visitors to France and Belgium, at this time, proceed with extreme caution.

We are thus making available to you a twenty page analysis, which includes a list of 108 incidents (assaults, violent acts and threats) focussing upon France and Belgium.

Most of these have occurred in neighbourhoods where Jews and Moslems live in close propinquity. Indeed, Moslem anti-Jewish activity has increased pari passim with the increasing intensity of the Intifada represented through the extreme imagery and anti-Israel hostility of the media.

The post-11 September US-led “war against terror” has merged the traditional anti-Americanism of the left, and the nationalism of the extreme right with an immediate sympathy for Al-Qa’eda among young socially marginalised Moslems in France.

Much of the antisemitic graffiti and mail used such expressions as “Vive Bin-Laden”.

The volume of violent incidents against Jewish targets reached a peak immediately after the attacks on New York and Washington, especially around the New Year and “Yom Kippur” festivals, with a new resurgence following Passover this year.

The climate of threat and hatemongering against Jews in Durban is now replicated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations across Europe, that serve to rally extreme-left, extreme-right and anti-globalization violent elements together with Islamic fundamentalists.

In June 2001, French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, told a Wiesenthal Centre delegation that assaults on Jewish institutions were “only acts of suburban hooliganism.” He rejected any aggravating implications of French policy on the Middle East conflict being interpreted as consistently pro-Arab.

Yet, the Minister for the Interior and for Religions, Daniel Vaillant, on 5 December 2001, reported “a net diminution of antisemitic threats and aggressions in the course of 2001, after a peak in 2000 coinciding with the beginning of the Intifada.”

I would call this the black box of denial.

A Jewish school-bus is attacked in suburban Paris. A bullet penetrates the window shield, wounding an 8 year old girl. The Police register the act as “broken windshield.” A Rabbi complains that his wrecked car is scrawled with “Death to the Jews.” The Police note it as “vandalism.” Thus the Interior Ministry reports that hate crimes against Jews “are down” and the media will not touch the issue. But the Wiesenthal Centre gets daily calls from victims and, in March this year, we organised hearings at Paris City Hall under the auspices of Mayor Bertrand Delanoë.

We cracked open the black box.

On 7 April, we co-sponsored the 200,000 demonstrator march against antisemitism in Paris and the media began to make it an issue.

To understand this black box, we must flashback twenty years: from the 3 October 1980 bombing of the Rue Copernic synagogue (when the then Prime Minister’s reaction was “a bomb at a synagogue killed innocent Frenchmen”) until the 9 August 1982 Rue des Rosiers massacre at Goldenberg’s Restaurant, there were 73 shootings and bombings of Jewish targets in Western Europe - of which 29 in France.

They ended with the Israeli 1982 entry into Lebanon and the consequent repatriation of European terrorists from Palestinian training camps in the Southern Lebanon. The French Action Directe, German Baader Meinhoff and Italian Red Brigades now focussed their attacks on banks, embassies and NATO installations. European governments finally took action, for what had started with the Jews had become a scourge for general society.

Also today, the authorities fear the Intifada’s arrival in Europe, irregardless of the Arab-Israel conflict. Already in Béziers, France, young fundamentalists shot the Deputy-Mayor, several policemen and then themselves, screaming “Allahu Akhbar.” Prime Minister Jospin belatedly pleaded that the Middle East be kept out of France.

The Al Qa’eda network was spread across Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK. We have shared with the authorities bona fide accounts of radical Imams from Algeria, financed by Iran, preaching hatred of Jews and Christians to young alienated Moslem youth in suburban prayer-halls. We know of week-end cross-Channel excursions of “Jihadist” students between Britain and the Continent.

The Jospin Socialist Government missed a golden opportunity. Had it seriously addressed the antisemitism issue, it might have demonstrated an example of strategic planning in regard to the key issue of the Presidential election campaign: insecurity and violence. By failing to do so, Le Pen’s National Front stepped into the breach. Many in the Jewish community consider the June Parliamentary elections as a test for their future in France.

On another level, Europeans, still battling with World War Two collective myths of resistance and collaboration with the Nazi occupier, seek absolution by projecting their guilt upon the victim.

Thus, the growth of Holocaust language used to Nazify the Israeli and Judaize the Palestinian.

Notoriously simplistic was a cartoon rendering of the famous photo of the child, under German guns at the fall of the Warsaw Ghetto. By role-reversal, a “keffiyah” headdress was placed on the child and Stars of David upon the Nazis’ helmets. This month, Le Monde banalized the Warsaw Ghetto ruins by lampooning it in juxtaposition with a mock scene of Jenin.

The slippery slope from hate-speech to hate-crime is clear. 72 hours after the close of the Durban hate-fest, its virulence struck at the strategic and financial centers of the United States.

If Durban was “Mein-Kampf,” then 9/11 was “Kristalnacht,” a warning.

What starts with the Jews is a measure, an alarm signalling impending danger for global stability. The new antisemitic alliance is bound up with anti-Americanism, under the cover of so-called “anti-globalization.”

The Holocaust, for thirty years, acted as a protective “Teflon” against blatant antisemitic expression. That “Teflon” has eroded, and what was considered distasteful and politically incorrect is becoming simply an opinion. But cocktail chatter at fine English dinners can end as cocktail Molotovs against synagogues.

“Political correctness” is also ending for others, as tolerance for multiculturalism gives way to populist voices in France, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Portugal and, last week, in the Netherlands. These countries’ Jewish communities can be caught between the rock of radical Islamic violence and the hard-place of a revitalized Holocaust-denying extreme right. Common cause must be sought between the victimized minorities against extremism and fanaticism.

The OSCE Bucharest Declaration of 2001 called for fighting, inter alia, antisemitism in the media and to pay it increased attention. Since 1990, our Centre has participated as an NGO at ODIHR Reviews and is familiar with the Copenhagen, Moscow, Lisbon and Istanbul Concluding Documents that propose legal, educational, monitoring and reporting measures, to effectively protect victims of racism, including antisemitism, in OSCE member-states.

In that spirit, the Wiesenthal Centre has, last week, co-launched a grass-roots project in the Paris suburbs, “SOS Truth and Security.” Attached is a synthesis of the 39 complaints from victims of antisemitism reaching already our hotline.

Volunteer lawyers will accompany each victim to the Police and the local Town Hall. Social workers will address their trauma. The data generated will be analyzed by our Centre and we would be happy to share the findings with this Commission and the OSCE.

Thereby, we urge your constant involvement in cracking open the black box of myopia and prejudice and exposing the consequent dangers that threaten us all.

One scintilla of light broke through the darkness in Durban when a South African black Moslem friend asked me a Jewish riddle: A Rabbi and his students were discussing when does night end and day begin?
One student said: “When you can distinguish between a lamb and a goat.”
The second said: “When you can distinguish between a fig-tree and an olive-tree.”
The Rabbi responded: “No, when you see a black woman and a white woman, when you see a rich man and a poor man and you cannot distinguish between them, then you will know that day has begun!”

Thank you.